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A Los Angeles judge correctly instructed a jury that found the story of Zen-Bear, who learned tai chi and kung fu from a snake, a crane, a tiger and a leopard, was not substantially similar to that of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s 2008 film Kung Fu Panda, an intermediate California appellate court has ruled. 

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell did not err in rejecting two jury instructions proposed by Terence Dunn, the Zen-Bear creator, who had sued in 2010 for breach of implied contract. Additionally, the panel found no problem with the judge’s answer to a jury question.

"The trial court properly answered the jury’s question and properly instructed the jury on substantial similarity," the panel wrote. "The court was not required to further instruct the jury on how to determine substantial similarity."

Theresa Macellaro of The Macellaro Firm in Los Angeles said her client was considering whether to seek additional appellate review. Jonathan Zavin, a partner at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles who represents DreamWorks, did not return a call for comment.

Kung Fu Panda is the story of Po, a lazy panda bear who is chosen to become a kung fu master to defend his Chinese village from an evil snow leopard. He learns kung fu from five animals: A tiger, a monkey, a crane, a snake and a praying mantis.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.

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